Rita Shane.  I can still remember her smile, the heart-tug that I felt when she engaged.  It was late 2013 and I was in the midst of an extremely dark time in my life.  I had detached from familiarity and was searching for something new, anything to re-ignite my sense of purpose.  A sign came – as they often do – unexpectedly.

My inbox pinged an email from a magazine editor asking me to take an assignment of Opera Legend, Rita Shane.  She had been an adjunct professor at the Eastman School of Music for nearly 25 years at that point.  Prior to her tenure at one of the Country’s most prestigious music schools, Rita was World-Renowned Coloratura Soprano singer.  Her professional career began in 1964 and for the 25 years that followed, she was regarded by many as the creme de la creme.  Her journey took her around the World many times over, and found her in the company of some of the most notable folks of the era.  Not familiar with that culture, I had no reason to be intimidated.

Rita and i met later on that week in her office at the Eastman School.  A knock on the door and that big smile…instant familiarity.  We spend hours talking of life and music, travel and family.  She had no idea how much I needed a break from the converstaions I was having in my own head those days.  We wandered the building…scoping out potential spots for photos.   She helped me find light…both for that shoot and figuratively.  The latter of which, I am sure she was completely unaware of.  We departed with a hug and a smile.  As I turned away she stopped me to say  – “you’re so good at what you do.  There is a spark in you that is not common.  Know that others can see that, and they admire you for it.” (or something along those lines).

Walking away I realized that was the first time in months that I had felt alive.  That I could breathe my full lung capacity.  That I had something…and something to share.  A few short months later I was devastated to learn that Rita had passed due to complications associated with Pancreatic Cancer.  The news was a shock to many…a crippling blow to the Eastman School Staff & Students, and the entire music community.

Rita was bigger than life…and an angel, if you ask me.  Rest peacefully, dear soul.  Your voice is forever in my ears and heart.

POST Online Article     :      Wikipedia